Tag Archives: change

Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.

I have had the privilege to speak in Indiana for their “Summer of eLearning” events over the past three years and I have been able to see snapshots of the state, that have given me some perspective.  The growth not only in the conversations, but the opportunities has been significant as a whole.  Years ago there were educators that were pushing the boundaries in the state, but there seem to be a lot more and I know that it is because of the persistence of many levels (top down and bottom up) that have made this possible.

What I have been thinking about how we have to realize that it is not only learning that is differentiated, but at the rate that we are accepting of change.  For some, change is happening too slow, but for others it is happening too fast.  It is the Goldilock’s conundrum that we are facing; how do we make it happen so the pace of change is just right?

Short answer? We can’t.

We have to realize that in educators are not simply educators. They are mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters.  There are so many other things that are happening around them that many of us can’t fathom.  I have good friends that are doing amazing things in spite of the things that they are dealing with at home.  In fact, sometimes they do these amazing things because it helps take away from some of those things they have to deal with.  I know that sometimes when I struggle personally, it is easy to bury my head and drive forward professionally. Sometimes when I struggle personally, professionally I also struggle.  It is dependent upon many factors.

This is a profession where humans are dealing with humans.  The amount of variables that we deal with daily are infinite as a profession.  

So do we give a pass to those that aren’t open to change? Not a chance.  Change will happen with or without people, but it is up to ourselves to evolve, adapt, and thrive.  What is important that we need to recognize when people are moving forward, not necessarily their endpoint.  One of the ideas that I have embraced in my role is that we help move people from their point ‘a’ to their point ‘b’. Movement forward is necessary.

Sometimes it is easy to think education has not changed in the past few years, but if we sat back and took snapshots, I know I have personally seen growth in the profession.  The conversations on assessment, learning-centred classrooms, innovation, and mindfulness are things that were not the norm when I started teaching.  This doesn’t mean that we can’t be frustrated with many of the barriers that are still in the way to help us move forward.  I encourage you to continuously challenge them.  What is important though is that we sometimes take a step back and appreciate some change that has happened.  I know personally that we move a lot further forward when we focus on strengths and show appreciation for one another, than we do when we criticize.

And just so you know, if education is truly learning focused, we will never get there (wherever “there” is).  Growth and change is part of the process of learning, and as organizations and individuals, we will need to embrace that.

Thinking of my dad on this Fathers’ Day, I looked at his actions, and the one thing he always reminded me of through his actions is that change is an opportunity to do something amazing. The more we embrace that notion, the better we will all be.

Change is an opportunity to do something

4 Reasons Why “Innovation” in Education is Different Today

I have been extremely thankful of the feedback and comments that I have received on the ideas I have written about on innovation in education.  Sharing my thoughts openly, has helped me to shape my thoughts about the topic and why it is important in education.  I really think in education it is more than a “buzzword” now, but we are still struggling to understand what it means for most schools.  The wrong approach is assuming that “innovation” is simply a substitute for the word “technology”; education technology leads have become “innovation officers”.  The title has changed but has the approach?  In some cases it totally has, while others it is not the case.  To me, it is about learning new ideas and creating something new and better for kids.  Sometimes it is invention (a totally new idea) and sometimes it is iteration (remix of an old idea), but it is always better.  That is key to “innovation”.

One of the most important thoughts that has shaped my thinking was from Kelly Christopherson who really pushed the idea that there have been “innovative teachers” long before our present time in schools, and I would totally agree. I remember one of my teachers discussing world wars, and instead of just teaching us about the past, he actually immersed us in activity where every single decision we made either lead to peace or conflict.  That sparked my love for history but it immersed me into a much deeper appreciation for learning.  There was no use of technology, no Internet, but just a better way of teaching and learning that I had not experienced as a student.

So why is innovation in education moving to the forefront?  There are a few reasons that I can think of but I would love for your thoughts as well.

1. Access to one another. – The power of social media is not in the sharing of information but the connection to one another.  For innovation to happen in any field, it is important that there are places where people can connect easily one another, often referred to as “spikes”.  A “spike” is a congregation of people coming together that are in a similar field, like Silicon Valley for startups, Nashville for country singers, and so on.  Social media has provided that “spike” for different fields (specifically in this case education) where we can come together to share ideas and build upon the ideas that we bring to one another.  For innovation to happen culturally in education, a “spike” is essential.  People drive innovation. Always.

2. Unlimited access to ideas. – In university, every book I read was on the topic of education.  My guess is that many of the same books I read in my courses were similar to the ones that other students were reading in different programs.  Now though, we do not only have access to practicing teachers and educational thought leaders (who are not only researchers, but are present in every aspect of the field), but we also have access to a huge amount of people outside education at our fingertips.  Those ideas can be reshaped and applied to education in much easier way than a time when that access was limited. We need to take advantage.

3. Schools as a whole need to get better.  – One of my favourite quotes on change from William Pollard is, “Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change is inevitable.”  With the world outside changing, schools need to help our students become leader in a world that expect a lot of different things from when I was a kid.  It is not that there aren’t great things already happening in schools.  For example, relationships will be the most important thing in schools yesterday, today, and tomorrow, but that is only a foundation of our institutions.  If the world is asking for people to be innovative and think differently, schools can no longer shape students to all think the same.

4. Schools can see what other schools are doing. – This is not meant to put schools into competition with one another, but it is in a hope that we do simultaneously and push one another.  Other than the occasional face-to-face interactions educators had with each other, it was hard to really hear about what was happening in other schools.  Now with so many educators sharing what is happening, there is (and should be) a pressure to do create better learning opportunities for our students.  From what I have seen, the majority of schools are not trying to contain this and make it exclusive to their students, but to share and collaborate with others to help students, no matter where they attend.  We will always serve a diverse community of learners and the more we can help each student, the better we all are.

As Kelly reminded me, innovation is not isolated to what we do in our schools today.  We just now have more of an opportunity to move it from “pockets of innovation” to a “culture”.  The access and tools are there, we just need to embrace them.

5 Ways To Influence Change

“At the end of the day, what qualifies people to be called ‘leaders’ is their capacity to influence others to change their behavior in order to achieve important results.” Joseph Grenny

In a time where the only constant in education is change, people involved with education need to become “change agents” more now than ever. You can understand pedagogy inside out, but if you are unable to define “why” someone should do something different in their practice, all of that knowledge can be ultimately wasted.  People will take a “known good” over an “unknown better” in most cases; your role is to help make the unknown visible and show why it is better for kids.

Look at the debate over “new math” right now.  Many people, including educators, are pushing back over the new curriculum based on the idea that math was taught in a much better way when we were kids.  Simply explaining the process and the way we teach and learn math is not enough.  It has to go deeper.  Ultimately, you want people to feel that this is so much better than they were kids, and that their children are better off.  Innately, people want what is better for kids.  Tap into that, and people are more likely to move forward.

“To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources—not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end.” Daniel Pink

So how does this happen?  Below are some things that I have seen effective leaders to have not people only accept change, but embrace it as an opportunity to do something better for kids.

  1. Model the change that they want to see.  Although this might seem extremely “cliche”, it is the most imperative step for any leader in leading the “change effort”.  Many organizations talk about the idea that people need to be “risk-takers”, yet they are not willing to model it themselves.  Until that happens, people will not feel comfortable doing something different.  It is also the difference between talking from a “theoretical” to “practical” viewpoint.  Have you ever seen a PowerPoint on “21st Century Change” from an administrator who does not exhibit any of the learning that is being discussed in the presentation? Me too.  People will feel more comfortable taking a journey to an unknown place if they know that the first steps have been taken by someone else.  Although I believe in the idea of distributed leadership, the idea of “leaders” is that they are also ahead; they have done things that have not been done before.  Chris Kennedy has shared the idea that leaders need to be “elbow deep in learning” with others, not only to show they are willing to embrace the change that they speak about, but to also be able to talk from a place of experience.
  2. Show that you understand the value that already exists. The word “change” is terrifying to some because it makes them feel that everything that they are doing is totally irrelevant.  Rarely is that the case.  I have seen speakers talk to an audience for an hour and people walk out feeling like they were just scolded for 90 minutes on how everything that they are doing is wrong.  It is great to share new ideas, but you have to tap into what exists already that is powerful.  When you show people that you value them and their ideas (and not in a fake way which is pretty easy to read through), they are more likely to move mountains for you., and for themselves.  Strengths-based leadership is something that should be standard with administrators to teachers, as it should be standard with teachers to kids.
  3. Tell stories. Data should inform what we do and is an important part of the change process, but it does not move people.  If you look at major companies like Coke and Google, they use stories to elicit emotion from people.  Of course they have numbers that they use in their process, especially when it comes to stakeholders, but organizations know the importance of telling a story to make people “feel” something.   To inspire meaningful change, you must make a connection to the heart before you make a connection to the mind. Stories touch the heart. What is yours?
  4. Bring it back to the kids. What does a 80% to a 90% tell us about a kid? That they are now 10% better?  Most educators got into the profession because of a strong passion for helping kids, so when we reduce who a child is to simply a number, or teaching simply to a process, we lose out on why many of us became educators. To help kids.  If you ever get the change to see Jennie Magiera speak, watch how she shows kids in her presentations and it shows the impact of her work on them.  A 10% difference does not create the same emotion as watching a student talk about something they learned or have done.  I have shared a video of Tony Sinanis doing a “newsletter” with his students and I have watched educators all over the world engrossed by what they are seeing.  Think about it…it’s a school newsletter.  Imagine if I handed out a piece of paper to educators and asked them to read a newsletter from another school.  Do you think they would care as much as seeing the kids, their faces, and their emotions? Don’t let a grade tell a story; let the kids do it themselves.
  5. Get people excited and then get out of the way.  I have been to schools, watched administrators encourage their teachers to embrace something different in their practice, and they make that change impossible to do.  Giving the answer that “we need to change the policy before you can move forward” not only encourages the detractors, but it kills the enthusiasm in your champions.  When “yeah but” is the most commonly used phrase in your leadership repertoire, you might as well just learn to say “no”; it’s essentially the same thing.  The most successful people in the world rarely follow a script, but write a different one altogether.  Are teachers doing something better “because of you” or “in spite of you”.  If you want to inspire change, be prepared to “clear the path” and get out of the way so that change can happen.

“Increase your power by reducing it.” Daniel Pink

The change process is a tough one but simply being knowledgeable is not enough.  Some people that actually “know less” but “influence more” create more change than some of the smartest people you know.  Education is not about “stuff” but about “people”.  Tap into that and you are more likely to see the change that you are hoping to see.

Everything happens for a reason, but…

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Chinese Proverb

2014 is coming upon us and I am thinking about some of the goals that I have for the upcoming year.  As many people do, I will focus on something that has to do with my health, my career, and those that surround me.  It is great to look back at what you have done in the past and reflect upon the year, and as each new year comes, I am excited about what lies ahead.

As the year comes, and in everyday life, I hear this saying often:

Everything happens for a reason.

I believe this more than you would ever know but I have always felt that the saying was missing something.  In my opinion, it should be something like this:

Everything happens for a reason, but you will need to do something with what lies before you.

Years ago, I was unhappy in my career and was ready to quit education. I hated teaching and a new profession seemed that it was on the horizon.  Due to some unforeseen events, I ended up getting a job in a new district and in my head, decided to give it one more year.  Since I was totally new to my district, I decided that with this new opportunity I was going to reinvent myself.

It started simply with wearing a tie to work everyday.  I know that it seems very simple, but that one little change made me feel something different.  With that little change, bigger changes happened within me, and although within one short year I became a school administrator (which I had never envisioned), I came to a place where teaching was not a career, but a passion.  Many of those mindset changes that I made that year I continue to do today.  Because of that year, I have always seen change as an opportunity, even when it comes out of something bad.  It takes a lot of work to see it, but when you do, your life can become that much better, but it depends on what you are looking for.  Change is hard but it is a lot harder to deal with when we choose to do nothing.

So if everything happens for a reason, what will you do with the opportunity that lies before you?

The Innovator Mindset

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Moyan Brenn

When I first started to get online, I used Internet Explorer, then Firefox, and now I use Google Chrome, but am able to use any of those other browsers depending upon the site and what works best.

I also signed up years ago for a Hotmail account, but then at work I was given “First Class” email, followed by Outlook account, and now Gmail.

Do you remember Word Perfect?  I used that as well, followed by Word (a ton of different versions), and now exclusively Google Drive for word processing.

Other than all of these things leading to Google products (I do love Google stuff but am also a big fan of an iPhone), what do all of these things have in common?


To clarify this isn’t change for the sake of change.  All of the technologies that I have left behind and have moved onto are for something better, yet they have more than likely iterations of one another.   Innovation is not always entirely new, but it should always be better.

I would be surprised that in 10 years I am using the same things that I am now as I know in the world of technology, things continuously evolve.  It is norm in the world of technology, and in reality, the world.  Change is inevitable, and many people in the world of educational technology see change as the constant and something to embrace, not fear. This is not everyone (there are a lot of people in educational technology that are still terrified of the “cloud”) but it is a common mindset with many that are in the field.

This is one of the reasons why I believe educational technology seems to be creeping into every conversation and every level of school at this moment in time.  Not because change hasn’t been the constant, but because of the pace that change is happening.  What is awesome about this development is that you are seeing traditional “technology” conferences (such as ISTE), have a different audience.  You are not only finding tech coordinators anymore, but teachers of every level and administrators.  These educators are not necessarily coming to check out the technology, but are embracing the mindset that at every level, educators are looking to become innovators.  Many educators outside of the EdTech have had this same “innovator” mindset for a long time, and it seems like now is the “perfect storm” of educators coming together.

To try and predict the important technology that we will be using years from now in education is much too hard; just expect to be doing something different.  Yet, to hire and look for and develop people that see change as an opportunity to do something amazing should be a standard in our organizations.

The “Innovator Mindset” is something that educators should embrace as a whole.

Slowing Down Change

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by kewl

Sometimes I wish that I had more great ideas. I wonder when an awesome idea will pop into my head or I will be inspired and I can share it with our staff and get them really excited about some new learning that can happen in their classrooms. Lately though, it just doesn’t seem the wheel are turning and I am starting to wonder why. I know that I have helped to push some great learning initiatives within our school division, but it doesn’t seem that there have been any new ones coming from my office lately.

So I started to wonder, “why is this happening?”

I started to look at the way I attend conferences and the articles that I read. My interest in information that goes outside of what we are doing already seems to be waning and I just do not have the time to read everything that comes my way. I also do not go to sessions that I don’t believe will make an impact on my work right now and I haven’t done anything “new” in awhile.

In my title, “innovation” is an important part of the description and to me, it means “new” and “better”. So I guess I am starting to understand why I have felt a bit stagnant. I am not really focused on “new” at this point until I see the work that I am doing is making learning “better”. In a role of leadership, I often hear teachers say things such as, “we can just wait for this to pass”, and to be honest, I do not want to bring initiatives to our division that people can just “wait out”. I want to bring initiatives to the division that are long lasting and transform the way that our students and staff are teaching and learning, not just bring in something flashy. I am watching teachers in my school division do some amazingly innovative things and I am extremely supportive of this. We need to allow our “innovators” to be innovative and I am always supportive of that.

It is important to be visionary and forward thinking but it is also important to be supportive and patient. The best leaders will find the balance between the two.

Change is good when it is needed and as leaders we should always be aware of trends in our world and education, but we also have to recognize when it is time to stay the course.

Change the Measure

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by aussiegall

The other day, through a conversation on Twitter, one of the questions that came up (which does often), is in light of all the progress in education, how do we measure if what we are doing is successful?  As I thought about it, it seemed that we are looking for some quantitative data to show success.  What I was struggling with though is if we are trying to make learning personalized, why are we trying to group the data?  Personalized learning would seemingly lead to personalized assessment and data with every child having a different measure of success.  The view of “success for all” really does not tell the story of each individual child but measures them against some common standard.  Wouldn’t success look different to every single person?  It seems we are looking to use “industrialized” data for personalized learning.

So what could that look like?  Well many organizations outside of education use the concept of “exit interviews” to measure how their company is doing and what it could do better.   Although there could be a more “numerical” way of doing this, many great organizations know that there is truly value in having conversations with those involved, and that through this qualitative data, their companies can get better.  The process is long but it is valuable.  What could that look like for our students?  Actually sitting down with them individually and having them share what they learned?  Would we not be able to understand how well they are doing while also assessing where we need to grow?  Is this not time well spent?  We need to bring our students in the conversation more.

Or why not focus on portfolios that tell the story from the child’s point of view?  Using digital portfolios are something that gives student the opportunity to not only share what they are learning, but it is also a reflective tool for learning.  By giving students a platform so we can look in at some of their thought process, will we not build an understanding of how well they are doing?

How do we measure success?  Through a score?  To adults, success could mean to some a good family, others a rewarding career, some money.  The standard is different for everyone.  We need to give this opportunity to our students.

I have said it before, and still believe that if classrooms are going to change (meaningful and sustainable change), organizations and structures need to change.  Simply looking for a “number” based on a different measure seems like the same type of assessment.  If we are going to change the way we teach, we need to also change how we assess, not just what we assess.



cc licensed flickr photo shared by Digital Blue

I was asked for my thoughts on a blog post by my friend Jabiz Raisdana on his blog post regarding the movement of his own community in blogging. Jabiz shares some of his thoughts on how blogging has maybe not caught on in his own building to the extent that he had hoped and how he hopes that he can move them forward.

It is amazing how much I can learn from the comments in my own blog post, but also from writing my own comments on other blog posts.  The way we can develop and nurture our thoughts through writing has been one of the best, unintended benefits I have had through my experience blogging.  Here is what I wrote to Jabiz on his post:

Hey Jabiz,

I totally get where you are coming from and appreciate your role modeling that you have done for others. The fact is, that many of us expect that educators just JUMP in and do some deep reflective thinking on a blog space, when they may have never even done that in any writing space (online or offline). It is not that these teachers are not reflective, they just may not write down their thoughts.

To help with this, I think that you will need to scaffold with them. I think of it on the level of Bloom’s taxonomy. To get to the high level thinking, we have to start often with some of the lower end stuff. I have seen teachers go from posting spelling lists, to some VERY DEEP, reflective posts that involve their students comments and conversations. The role modeling that you are doing is a great step, but it often needs to be accompanying other elements that you are bringing into practice.

One of my mentors said the following to me: “There are three elements of being a strong leader. You have to know when to stand in front to share and role model the vision, you need to stand beside and work together towards the vision, and you need to stand behind to encourage them to move on their own.”

I heard someone say something along the lines of this: “A rock is not formed in one swift move, and if it is, it can be destroyed. A rock is formed through the continuous shaping of the tide over years.”

As educators, we need to stop thinking of learning in yearly segments.  Learning is continuous, along with the process of change and growth.  When schools work together, and have that same belief, what they can do together is absolutely amazing.  When we are rushing to get everything done by the end of the year through our own growth process, that is when things feel like add-0ns and we lose our belief in them.  I for one, do not want to look back at my time as a school administrator and believe that the ideas I have implemented were “fads”.  The tools might be different, but the learning should be continuous and built upon.  If we really believe that an idea is truly  better for education, the process will (and should) take awhile.

Is this not a great way to role model to our students that we are continuous learners?

Which side are you on?

, via Wikimedia Commons”]“There is good reason to believe that if the phonograph proves to be what its inventor claims that it is, both book-making and reading will fall into disuse. Why should we print a speech when it can be bottled, and why should we learn to read when, if some skilled elocutionist merely repeats one of ‘George Eliot’s’ novels aloud in the presence of a phonograph, we can subsequently listen to it without taking the slightest trouble?” (A quote taken from I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works by Nick Bilton)

I  have been fascinated by the above book talking about our present society and how we are adapting to the massive amount of technology.  It is definitely something that applies to schools and the parallels in are obvious in education.

Although I know that change is not always accepted, especially in our society within the areas of innovation, it is amazing to hear the stories Bilton shares about our past and seeing others struggle with the same thing:

“It was claimed that trains would blight crops with their smoke and terrify livestock with their noise, that people would asphyxiate if carried at speeds of more than twenty miles per hour, and that hundreds would yearly die beneath locomotive wheels or in fires and boiler explosions. Many saw the railway as a threat to the social order, allowing the lower classes to travel too freely, weakening moral standards and dissolving the traditional bonds of community.” That’s right: Some people theorized that if humans traveled at more than twenty miles per hour, they would suffocate. Or worse. Anne Harrington, chair of Harvard’s history of science department, found that scientists also believed that traveling at a certain speed “could actually make our bones fall apart.”

I have been on a train several times and my bones are still in place!

As we see many schools either trying to embrace this technology in the classroom, or else push it all together, I wonder about how we parallel to the rest of society.  At one time, online banking was something that many people did not trust as a reliable way to use this service, but in my own life, I now can’t imagine not having this service.  If you look at the music industry, their reluctance to embrace this technology sooner rather than later has probably led them to losing a substantial amount of money. Itunes has helped with this but the damage that has been done through the continuous battle with record companies and ultimately, the consumer, has led to irreversible damage (watch RIP: A Remix Manifesto for a fascinating documentary on this and copyright laws). The difference is that in education, I am not worried about losing money; I am more worried about losing our kids.

We need to embrace this technology and give our students the opportunity to become not only consumers, but creators of information.  Bilton shares a FANTASTIC story of Malia Obama capturing her father’s inauguration on her own cell phone.

As the president awaited his swearing in, his ten-year-old daughter, Malia Obama, sat behind him taking pictures with her digital camera. There were literally hundreds of thousands of people taking pictures of that event—pictures of Barack Obama would appear on the front page of almost every newspaper and news website around the world—yet his daughter wanted to document the event through her own eyes.

Our children need to have the opportunity to be creators and tell their stories in ways that are meaningful and relevant to them.  At our school, we have made tremendous strides to give the power to our students to share these stories through the forms of blogs and different forms of media.  It is essential that our students continue to have power over their learning and how they create and share their own knowledge.

As I close this post, I leave you with the following quote from Bilton (definitely a must read) and a question:

You can lament the changes that are happening today—tomorrow’s history—convincing yourselves of the negatives and refusing to be a part of a constantly changing culture. Or you can shake off your technochondria and embrace and accept that the positive metamorphosis will continue to happen, as it has so many times before. Young people today are building a new language, not demolishing an old one. And as you will soon see, developments like these new words are helping create significant and meaningful new communities and new relationships that are an essential part of our changing culture and our wireless future.

Which side are you on?